What is Montessori

The first duty of the educator, whether he is involved with the newborn infant or the older child, is to recognize the human personality of the young being and respect it.
— Maria Montessori

In 1907, Maria Montessori called her first school Casa dei Bambini, or “The Children’s House.” She chose this phrase deliberately to accentuate the difference between her child-centered educational methods and the adult-centered approach to teaching that was dominant at the time and is still the model in many schools.

The most effective way to educate the child, Montessori argued, is to thoughtfully design a learning environment that meets the developmental needs of the “whole child,” taking into consideration social and emotional needs as well as academic growth. The role of the teacher is to observe the children, support their efforts, and gently guide them in the exploration of new ideas and the practice of new skills. If we “follow the child,” she said, the child will teach us what he or she is ready to learn and we can provide materials to facilitate that learning. Allowing children to choose what they want to work on in a given time period increases concentration, which results in greater mastery of the content. It also makes learning fun, because each individual child may pursue his or her own interests.

Maria Montessori wrote many books and essays outlining her theories and methods. Her study of children from birth to adulthood allowed her to formulate philosophical, psychological and pedagogical principles. These, together with a vast range of recognizable auto-didactic materials, came to be known as the Montessori Method. Her educational framework is designed to support all learners, from the learning disabled to the gifted.

When visiting a Montessori school, it helps to be familiar with these concepts: